I rarely walked down Balcarres Street in the daylight. The number 23 bus took me directly to my Edinburgh flat.
The night buses dropped me off on Morningside Road, a main thoroughfare, though still shuttered and empty after nightfall (save a few pubs).
The 10 minute walk from Morningside Road was dark and residential. Pavement wound past a graveyard and adjacent to a mental hospital. Just up the hill sat the old asylum turned college, now an abandoned, wooded campus frequented during the day by hikers. But at night, blackness.
As my family’s year abroad neared an end and I prepared to finish my degree, I’d walk down this road with earbuds in and music loud. It took away much of the creepiness. John Mayer’s Paradise Valley is one of the albums of my Year of Writing Creatively (the other being, in all seriousness, Katy Perry’s Prism).
Mayer’s song “On the Way Home” resonated with me, especially with our Scottish adventure coming to an end. A sample lyric reads:
“The summer’s over, this town is closing.
They’re waving people out of the ocean.
We had the feeling like we were floating.
We never noticed where time was going.
Do you remember when we first got here?
The days were longer; the nights were hot here.
Now, it’s September; the engine’s started.
You’re empty-handed and heavy-hearted.
But just remember on the way home….
That you were never meant to feel alone.
It takes a little while, but you’ll be fine:
Another good time coming down the line.”
I’d climb up to our fourth floor flat and turn off the music…eventually.
I cried when I said goodbye to every place which made our/my time there…home. They were never big things- the university campus, the church building, the friends I’d made – which brought out the tears. My tears were in the details of home.
The Morningside Parish playgroup. ( I’d never park Alistair’s buggy in the foyer again.Sob.)
My Student Ride-a-Card. Goodbye to the familiar beep as I hopped on a bus.
My favorite baked good in the world, a scone from Project Coffee.
The two very last things I did in Edinburgh before we moved back to Minnesota were this: pick up contact lenses from my opticians and meet my friend Fi for frozen yogurt.
Nothing felt like the end. My soul stood in denial, and it seemed I’d see Fi the next day for a scone.
After we left she told me she kept seeing me in our neighborhood. My mother-in-law, who lives on Edinburgh permanently, said the same thing. She went to Morningside and it felt like we’d just….be there.
That’s the thing about home. How do you leave home? When does a place become home, and when does someplace else usurp it? If ever?
I’ve often said I don’t feel I have a real home, as a I’m a wanderer, and it’s true. But my heart seems to lie in three places: Colorado, Scotland and Fargo, North Dakota/Moorhead, Minnesota.
John Mayer would comfort me with his words…..”It’s takes a little while, but you’ll be fine, another good time coming down the line.”
It’s proven to be true in the past. One adventure after the other. That’s life.
Fargo-Moorhead is where my son was born. It’s where my dad lives. It’s where I have many friends and a church family. It’s comforting in it’s familiarity.
Edinburgh, Scotland is where I met my husband. It’s where I came-of-age in many new and exciting ways. It’s where I married and learned about the world.Many people I love still live there.
Colorado Springs, Colorado is considered my ‘hometown’. I wasn’t born in the city at the foot of the Rockies, but I went to middle school, high school and part of college there (the rest in Boulder – Go Buffs). My formative years took place there. It’s where I became an adult. The Springs is where I fostered my ideals and my identity.
John Mayer made it sound like I could go back home to any of these places.
But then Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel said:
“Tonight I’ll sing my songs again,
I’ll play the game and pretend.
But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony I need someone to comfort me….
I wish I was…homeward bound.”
Today, a gunman killed innocent people in my hometown.
Just a few weeks ago, another gunman killed innocent people there, too.
A large neighborhood of my high school’s catchment area was burned to the ground a few years ago inow a wildfire.
I know what it’s like to lose a family member to a gunshot (in different circumstances). I know what it’s like to become homeless after a house fire (different circumstances).
And I know what it’s like to love the city of Colorado Springs.
Whenever I’m in one of my three ‘homes’, my heart aches for the other two. Could I physically be in all three places at once? If only.
But my heart IS in all three of those places. Some days it leans more to one than the other.
I know humans have been trying to figure out the notion of home since the dawn of mankind. I don’t have any answers today. I just have feelings.
And my heart hurts for my home.
As I think about it, I think about other ways people lose their homes – the loss of innocence in your home city after a terrorist attack such as the recent Paris and Beruit attacks- the loss of your country and homeland in the case of being a refugee such as those souls fleeing war-ravaged Syria.
Some people lose their church homes, or lose family members, who can be akin to home. Because people and institutions can be home, too.
As my heart and mind contemplate the world, and how we grow attached to people, institutions and places, my mind has few answers.
But my thoughts are with Colorado.
To be continued.